From India threatening Australia’s crown to the IPL sending cash registers ringing like never before, it was a rather eventful year for cricket. It, however, was not all about the game. Controversy was ever present, too. We give you the good and the bad
It’s still too early to state they’re in decline but Australia certainly have been stripped of their aura. India played a key role in this, storming the bastion at Perth in an emotional series. When Oz came here, Ponting was left clutching at straws as he found he had neither the personnel nor imagination to counter India.
The rise and rise
India stepped confidently towards their goal of being No. 1 in all forms of the game. The Twenty20 crown is already theirs. Aside from the Ajantha Mendis horrors in Sri Lanka India's Test results were terrific, with Australia being comfortably dispatched, and England seen off. A 5-0 ODI blanking of England only underscored their position in limited-overs cricket.
Out in the cold
Pakistan did not play a single Test match in the entire year. After successive teams refused to tour the country because of security fears the Champions Trophy was 'postponed.' The country faces an isolation that it probably does not deserve, and when India withdrew from their tour for political reasons post the Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistan's tale of woe was complete.
The Big Bang
It defied all critics, exceeded all expectations and generally rose to heights few could have predicted. The inaugural Indian Premier League was such a rousing success, on the field and off, that players from around the world continue to clamour to be a part of the event. For cricket administrators, it has become the event to emulate.
So long, and thank you
A golden era in Indian cricket came to an end when Sourav Ganguly, still defiant and batting with control and confidence, decided to retire. He was afforded the warm farewell he deserved. Anil Kumble, the other warrior, struggled with form and when fitness worries reminded him of his age, he decided to walk away.
If a sex scandal involving the president of the FIA, Max Mosley was not enough, the News of the World threw in a Nazi element to make it more vicious. The British tabloid published a story about Mosley's part in a sado-masochistic orgy with prostitutes. Mosley, son of British fascist leader Oswald, accepted taking part but denied the Nazi-theme allegations and sued the newspaper for violation of privacy. Not only did he win the case and damages, he also hung on to his FIA presidency.
Split wide open
The tension simmering beneath the surface finally boiled over. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have long ceased seeing eye to eye, but now two other players in the Bhupathi camp – Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna — ganged up against captain Paes. They shot a letter to the AITA asking for Paes' ouster from the captaincy. Though the players stood down from their stance to play the Davis Cup tie against Japan, the fissures continue. Even after Paes the captain is gone.
Andrew Symonds had had enough of the monkey business in India. So when India's Harbhajan Singh allegedly called him the same, the roof at the SCG came crashing down. The Indian off-spinner was promptly handed a three-match ban, which almost led to cricket's own myopic World War. Of course, neither can take a moral high position after what transpired later in the year—Harbhajan slapped India teammate S Sreesanth after an IPL game while Symonds was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons.
Asif and the art of cheating
Mohammed Asif is a bad cheat, in that he always gets caught. If being banned from the 2006 Champions Trophy wasn’t enough, the Pakistani bowler was charged twice in two months for drug abuse. In June he was detained in Dubai for possession of illegal drugs and then it was revealed that he had tested positive for a banned substance during the IPL.
While he was cleared in the first instance, the decision on steroid use is pending since his 'B' sample testing has been postponed on request.
For better or for worse
After cricket and football, concerns about match-fixing hit tennis. Russia's Nikolay Davydenko came under scrutiny after a suspicious betting pattern emerged during his match against Martin Vassallo Arguello. Players claimed betting was an open secret. An ATP probe revealed that 45 matches (from 2002-07) were to be investigated. While it concluded that tennis was ‘neither systematically nor institutionally corrupt,’ several precautionary measures were taken.